A third of NZ children live in poverty

9:12 am on 15 December 2015

Child poverty rates are on the up and nearly 30 percent of children now live without the basics, according to a new report by the Children's Commissioner.

State house in Titahi Bay, Wellington.

A new report shows more children are living without the basics of life. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

305,000 New Zealand children now live in poverty - 45,000 more than a year ago.

However a long time activist, Auckland Action Against Poverty spokeswoman Sue Bradford, said statistics did not bring children out of poverty and endless reports pointing out the problem were not the answer.

Child poverty is never out of the headlines for long and generally the news is not good - the latest figures from the Children's Commissioner are no different.

The report says nearly one in three children now live in poverty - defined as being in a household earning less than 60 percent of the median income after housing costs. Fifteen percent live in a cold house, lack decent clothing and go without fruit and vegetables.

It also predicts most children that were in poverty now would remain so for the rest of their childhood.

While the authors of the report point out the problem, they do not make any firm recommendations to fix it.

Ms Bradford said the problem was well-known.

"They're always useful, and cheers for yet another report on child poverty, but reports can't solve the problem - only action can," she said.

"That's action from the top."

Ms Bradford said New Zealand needed to overhaul its housing, employment and welfare policies to make any real impact on child poverty. She called on the people putting together the reports to be more courageous.

"To not only say, 'this is a terrible situation that's happening' - yes, it's good to know that - but we also need some solutions."

Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills.

Dr Russell Wills Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said the report was not aimed at policy makers.

"The public of New Zealand needs to understand the impact of poverty on children," he said.

"The better our collective understanding and the more support there is to invest in these kids, the more support governments will have to invest in these children. So that's the change we want to see."

Dr Wills said the government was making some good moves, like insulating more homes and increasing benefits.

While the report did not make any formal recommendations, he said the government needed a more overarching plan to deal with child poverty.

"Each of these ad hoc things the government does doesn't add up to a greater whole, and that's why we need a plan.

"We need to set targets to reduce the number of children living in poverty."

The Commissioner's report also pushed the blame for child poverty off individual parents.

Child Poverty Action Group health spokesperson Nikki Turner said until that message got through to New Zealanders, very little could be done.

"Until we believe child poverty is an issue for the country, not an issue for individual parents, we do not have a willingness to put in the resources to fix this problem," she said.

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